Jason Terry, Jordan Crawford

Baseline-to-Baseline recaps: Celtics 11-0 run closes out Pacers

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while wondering what live is like for a poor sultan….

Lakers 108, Hornets 102: The Lakers were down 25 in the third quarter, 18 entering the fourth. But then Kobe Bryant took over the offense and Dwight Howard the defense, the Hornets fell apart and a comeback that could be a defining moment in the Lakers season was on. Our own Darius Soriano broke it all down.

Celtics 83, Pacers 81: Boston is supposed to be old. They were on the second night of a back-to-back playing on the road. Yet they were the team that put together an 11-0 run to end the game, capped off by a Jeff Green layup when the Pacers defense broke down that gave the Celtics the win.

Of course, this was more than just one shot. The Celtics got 18 from Kevin Garnett, but mostly the Celtics are a team poised to take advantage of a Pacers defense designed to make you take midrange jumpers. The Celtics can kill you that way, they are the best midrange shooting team in the NBA. And finally, the Pacers offense can just go away. It did at the start of the fourth quarter when they gave up a 10-point lead. Then again at the end of the game, in the final 4:30, the Pacers were 0-7 with two turnovers. Those dry stretches kill the.

This game is a great example of how people view these teams heading into the playoffs. Boston doesn’t have the most talent but the guys they have make plays under pressure and execute with the game on the line, which makes them dangerous. The Pacers still played great defense for the game (they only gave up 83) but their offense can take a siesta and when that happens against good teams they lose.

Heat 97, Magic 96: Miami led this game by 20 points early in the third quarter then returned to a bad habit we haven’t seen a lot of during their streak — they coasted. Took their foot off the gas. And while the Magic are not a good team they play hard for Jacque Vaughn and they came back. Nikola Vucevic was key to this and he finished the game with 25 points and 21 boards. But he also fouled out and so there was no good rim protector on the court for the final play, a LeBron James drive to win it. LeBron finished with 26 points, Dwyane Wade 24.

Mavericks 112, Rockets 108: On Sunday, the Rockets embarrassed the Mavericks by 33 points. The box score from that game was taped to the white board in the Dallas locker room with “not tonight” written across it in red ink.

This game was close and down the stretch Dallas closed on a 10-4 run to get the win. Dallas got good play from its veterans, with Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion each pouring in 23. Marion was also the guy guarding James Harden much of the night and Harden went 5-of-17 from the field and airballed a late three. It just wasn’t going to be his night.

Cavaliers 104, Jazz 101: Those footsteps you hear Jazz fans are the Lakers 1.5 games back of you now. If you’re going to win this race with them down the stretch, this is the kind of game you need to win.

Utah led by 6 with 1:41 to go but Cleveland closed the game out on a 9-0 run. They did it behind Kyrie Irving, who had 11 of his 20 points on the night in the final five minutes of the game. He took over and the Jazz both don’t have a guard who can do that nor a perimeter defender who can slow a guy who starts to do that. Gordon Hayward had 25 for the Jazz as he continues to come into his own on the offensive end.

Spurs 101, Bulls 83: No Tony Parker no problem. Playing without their all-star point guard, the Spurs still found a way to hold off the Bulls after a fairly even 1st half by pulling away in the final 24 minutes.

Without Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili led the way for San Antonio. Duncan had another throwback game, doing most of his damage inside, scoring 18 points while grabbing 10 rebounds and blocking 5 shots. Ginobili, operating with the ball in his hands a lot more, racked up 9 assists to go with 18 points of his own by hitting 3 of his 5 three point attempts and getting to rim well to score inside. Kawhi Leonard also took up a greater load on offense by scoring well as both a shot creator and in doing his normal work as an off-ball threat. Leonard’s 14 points came on an efficient 6-11 shooting and his work was a nice compliment to the heavy lifting of Duncan’s inside game and Ginobili’s creativity as primary ball handler.

The Bulls, meanwhile, were carried by Luol Deng (19 points, 7 rebounds) and some hot shooting from Marco Belinelli, who scored a game high 21 points on 8-16 shooting (including 3-6 from behind the arc). But, as has been the case all to often this season with Derrick Rose on the shelf, the Bulls simply couldn’t find enough ways to score points as the Spurs clamped down in the 2nd half by taking away their preferred actions and doing a better job of contesting shots.
—Darius Soriano

Clippers 117, Bucks 101: Jamal Crawford’s between-the-legs alley oop to Blake Griffin for the windmill dunk will steal the highlights, but Lob City can’t exist without the foundation that is Griffin’s work on the block. Against the best shotblocking team in the league, Griffin was smooth, under control, and threw together strings of moves that sent Milwaukee’s bigs flying out of the way. Griffin’s calm, collected effort led to his first triple-double since his rookie season, and he nearly had it in the third quarter. Griffin’s 23 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists carried the Clippers, but Matt Barnes also caught fire from deep (six 3-pointers) and Jamal Crawford (11-for-15) couldn’t miss. Milwaukee did their part to hang in for most of the game offensively, but the quality and quantity of open looks eventually tipped the scales heavily in the favor of the Clippers.
—D.J. Foster

Knicks 87, Pistons 77: The Knicks were sloppy early on in this one, with seven turnovers in the games first seven minutes. Their offense couldn’t find a flow with Carmelo Anthony out resting his sore knee. But once Mike Woodson decided to put Amare Stoudemire in and the game things got better for New York — Stoudemire had 22 points, Raymond Felton found his groove on the pick-and-roll when the Pistons started to play off him, and finished with 26. The Knicks went on a 16-0 run after the Pistons made a second-half push to take the lead, and that was it for Detroit. Brandon Knight had 17 to lead Detroit.

Hawks 107, Sixers 96: We have a “good” Jeff Teague sighting — he was aggressive all night and scored 27 points and added 11 assists in the Hawks win. Atlanta took control of this game midway through the first quarter and led the rest of the way. When the Sixers made a push in the third quarter the Hawks responded with a 15-1 run to remind everyone how this game would end. Al Horford and Anthony Tolliver each had 21 for the Hawks.

Grizzlies 91, Trail Blazers 85: This was the classic tale of two halves game.

In the first half, the Trailblazers jumped out an early lead through hot shooting from their perimeter players. Damian Lillard scored 14 of his 20 points in those first two quarters while Nicolas Batum was able to hit 4 of his 5 shots to score all 10 of his points over that stretch. With J.J. Hickson (12 points, 13 rebounds for the game) pitching in 8 points and 7 rebounds in the first half, the Blazers were well on their way to taking down the red hot Grizzlies, boasting a 12 point lead heading into the 2nd half.

But, after halftime, the Grizzlies showed why they’re on such a hot streak. In the final two periods, the Grizzlies outscored the Blazers by 18 points through ratcheted up defensive pressure and offensive balance. Portland only shot 28.2% from the field in the 2nd half as the Grizzlies swarmed shooters and made a consistent effort to protect the rim. LaMarcus Aldridge had a particularly rough night for the Blazers, connecting on only 2 of his 13 shots (though he did add 10 rebounds and 6 assists).

Offensively, the Grizzlies began to attack more through Mike Conley and Marc Gasol who both scored 13 of their 20 and 23 points respectively after halftime. Add in a good scoring punch from Jerryd Bayless off the bench (13 points) and the Grizzlies’ superior talent and depth were able to take control as the game went on.
—Darius Soriano

Warriors 87, Kings 83: The Warriors needed a win — they were falling in the standings and entering the “can the Lakers catch them?” conversation. But Sacramento always plays the Warriors tough and while this game wasn’t the high-scoring, overtime-filled matchup of games past it was close. It took David Lee (17 points, 10 rebounds) finding Klay Thompson alone in the corner for a three to seal the Warriors win. Thompson finished with a game-high 20. The Kings had a shot to tie it but Tyreke Evans couldn’t get a little runner to go over the long arms of Thompson and the Warriors are safe for a day.

Nets 99, Bobcats 78: The Nets owned the third quarter, outscoring the Bobcats 26-7 at one point in there, and pulled away for an easy win. The run was led by Joe Johnson, who had 10 in the quarter and 22 for the game. Charlotte’s offense never came out of the locker room for the second half as they shot 25 percent in the final two quarters. The Nets shot 56 percent in the second half and part of that was Deron Williams, who finished the game with 26. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with 17 led Charlotte.

Timberwolves 87, Wizard 82: When Ricky Rubio is feeling it there may not be a more fun player in the league to watch. Rubio had 15 points, 11 assists and 7 rebounds leading a small lineup from the Timberwolves (Rubio, Luke Ridnour and J.J. Barea together) to the win. This was close most of the way with neither team ever getting a double-digit lead, but it was a 13-5 push that gave Minnesota the lead it needed in the fourth. Washington had its chance, down one with 31 seconds to go and the ball in John Wall’s hands (he had 17). But Rubio got the steal off wall, pushed the ball ahead to Barea who hit the layup that ended up being the dagger.

Raptors 91, Suns: 71: This was a blowout from the middle of the second quarter on and it was sparked in part by the Raptors bench. Six Toronto players scored in double digits. As for the Suns night, they had 29 turnovers. That led to 39 Raptors points. That pretty much sums it all up.

Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan tied NBA record with 22 missed free throws Monday

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DeAndre Jordan tied his personal best with 12 made free throws Monday night against the Trail Blazers.

But that’s not what anybody is talking about with Jordan’s trips to the free throw line Tuesday.

So you don’t have to do the math yourself, Jordan hit just 35.3 percent of his free throws. When the Clippers pulled away with a mini-run in the fourth quarter, Blazers coach Terry Stotts responded with hack-a-Jordan, and Doc Rivers refused to take him out. The result was nine intentional fouls and trips to the free throw line in less than two minutes.

It was ugly to watch.

The purist’s answer here is “if he hits his free throws this never happens, so learn to shoot them.” That’s the camp Adam Silver is in, and it’s his voice (and that of the other owners) that matters. There is no appetite around the league to change the rule, even though more and more players are being subjected to it.

I would argue that fouling intentionally off the ball in the first place is outside the spirit of the game — it’s not playing basketball — and unsportsmanlike. I think it’s bad for the sport, much worse than missed free throws and a dragged out game. I would like to see any time there is an off-the-ball foul the aggrieved team having a choice of free throws or the ball out-of-bounds.

But I’m in the minority. The rule isn’t changing soon. Which means Jordan — or Dwight Howard or Rajon Rondo or someone — is going to get the chance to set a new free throw futility mark soon. That will be fun to watch.

Rumor: Houston seeing if there is trade market for Ty Lawson

Ty Lawson

While it does happen — and the ones that do happen tend to be bigger names — December is not a time the NBA does a lot of trades. Team GMs are always willing to talk, listen, and get a feel for the market, but it’s not until after the first of the year — and closer to the February trade deadline — before the market picks up momentum.

But there are always trade rumors, and the well-connected Steve Kyler over at BasketballInisiders.com had an interesting one — the Houston Rockets might be open to moving Ty Lawson.

The Rockets have been sniffing around the league for deals and there is a belief among other teams that Lawson could be had in trade, and had cheaply. Lawson is owed $12.4 million this season with the final $13.21 million of his deal being fully non-guaranteed.

As the Rockets search for ways to change, there is a belief that Lawson could be the first Rocket player moved. But given how poorly Lawson has played in Houston and his troublesome off-the-court history, it’s hard to imagine that Lawson alone is going to yield much in return. But as teams start to get desperate, Lawson does have a career assist average of more than 6.5 assists per game and averaged 9.6 per game last season for the Nuggets.

The Rockets are 10.4 points per 100 possessions better this season when Lawson is on the bench rather than starting. Lawson and James Harden — both of whom need the ball in their hands to be most effective — get outscored by 9.3 points per 100 possession when they are paired.  Pair Lawson with Dwight Howard and the Rockets are -11.4 per 100.

The Rockets clearly need to shake things up, and firing coach Kevin McHale and bringing in J.B. Bickerstaff has not been the answer. They have serious effort issues, which leads to real locker room chemistry questions. If they move Lawson, with that salary they should get a player of some value in return. If a good team loses a point guard to injury, Lawson could be a viable alternative.

Moving Lawson would be no magic bullet for Houston right now, but don’t be shocked if you hear a lot Lawson rumors as the trade deadline nears.

LeBron James on not facing Kobe Bryant in Finals: “I didn’t hold up my end”

Kobe Bryant, LeBron James
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It was the matchup everyone wanted to see — LeBron James and the Cavaliers against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers in the NBA Finals. You can be sure the suits at ESPN/ABC wanted to see it.

Never happened. It felt like it would in 2009, but LeBron and the Cavs ran into a Magic team they could not defend and fell short. Kobe vs. LeBron never happened on the NBA’s biggest stage.

LeBron blames himself he said Tuesday, as reported by the Akron Beacon Journal.

“I didn’t hold up my end of the bargain,” James said of 2009, when the Cavs were upset by the Orlando Magic in the conference finals. “I know the world wanted to see it. I wanted it, he wanted it. He held up his end, I didn’t hold up my end and I hate that. I hate that it didn’t happen.”

LeBron was phenomenal in that series, but this was a team he could not carry all the way. In Game 1 he had 49 points on 20-of-30 shooting, plus dished out eight assists, and pulled down six rebounds — and the Cavaliers still lost. LeBron had a 59.1 true shooting percentage for the series despite a ridiculous 38 usage rate. The problem was his teammates had no answers for Stan Van Gundy’s offense with Dwight Howard in the paint and four shooters around him, plus Hedo Turkoglu playing the best ball of his career off the pick-and-roll.

Bottom line, LeBron you shouldn’t blame yourself. I’d say blame Cavaliers management, but clearly you did a summer later when you took your talent to South Beach. At least you ultimately learned to forgive.


Report: Phil Jackson would have taken Okafor over Porzingis. Duh.

New York Knicks Draft Picks Press Conference

Of course he would have — 29 other GMs would have as well.

Jackson also seriously would have considered trading the No. 4 pick if the right package of picks — including Brooklyn’s unprotected pick from this season — were part of the package. Again, that’s not a surprise or even a poor decision.

But in New York, which has fallen in love with the guy they used that No. 4 pick on in Kristaps Porzingis, that idea has become news, especially in the wake of No. 3 pick Jahlil Okafor‘s recent run of off-the-court issues. Here is the report, via the New York Post.

According to an NBA source, as much as Jackson’s top adviser, Clarence Gaines Jr., wanted Jackson to take Porzingis even if the Knicks had the No. 1 pick, that wasn’t the way the Zen Master would have gone if it was a choice between the two big men.

Okafor was Jackson’s man.

“He had to draft Okafor — too much a sure thing,’’ the source said.

Again, 29 other GMs would have done the same thing at that time. Now, maybe it changes, but at the time anyone who tells you differently is selling something.

It’s not that some of those GMs (and certainly some of their scouts) didn’t think Porzingis could develop into an excellent NBA player, but he was considered a higher risk pick than Okafor, who is averaging 17.5 points a game for the Sixers and looks like a franchise cornerstone player. Maybe Porzingis had a higher ceiling, but Okafor had a way higher floor. If your job is on the line with a draft pick, you think about the floor.

Has Okafor had some incidents off the court? Obviously. He’s a 19-year-old making decisions that put in situations where bad things happen. That’s correctable. We all made stupid decisions when we were 19, just most of us grew out of them. (Well, if you ask my wife whether I did or not…) He likely will to, his handlers are already making significant steps.

Zach Lowe at Grantland said that the Knicks did consider trading the pick, but the deal never came close to fruition.

The Celtics were hell-bent on moving up to draft Justise Winslow, and offered the Hornets four first-round picks — including one of Brooklyn’s unprotected picks — for Charlotte’s No. 9 pick. But that was Boston’s fall-back plan, sources say. Boston initially chased Charlotte’s pick with the idea of sending it to the Knicks, along with Boston’s No. 15 pick, to vault all the way into New York’s draft slot — where they would take Winslow. Charlotte refused Boston’s pitches, and the scenario died. The Knicks downplay their interest in Boston’s offer, though it’s fascinating to consider how the draft might have played out — and which fan base would be chanting “POR-ZIN-GIS!” today — had the Celtics swooped in for Winslow at No. 4

“We listened,” Mills says. “But we were never close.”

Now, looking back at it, Knicks fans wouldn’t trade any of it.